I was pondering the other day, and I turned to someone I talk to on occasion about my writing. I like the idea of writing about families (a lot of good writing involves them – just look at Dickens) and in my universe for Steve and Danny I wanted to explore, in depth, the conversation between two partners about expanding their family. Of course when it’s two male partners there’s virtually no margin of error for the “oops, we got pregnant” conversation, unless somebody’s gone out and knocked up some woman on their own, in which case the conversation becomes about a lot more than just having more children.

I said, “Steve and Danny want to have another child, their sixth, not including Grace,and I need a conflict.” The reply came: “I don’t see one. Does there need to be one?”

Well, of course there does. Even if the conflict is a simple as coming up with 20 large for an artificial insemination, there’s got to be conflict, or there’s no story. The series itself explores themes such as family relationships, loyalty, trust, duty, scapegoating, the nature of and the difficult line between good and evil, bureaucracy, justice, corruption, and loosely (very loosely) history of Hawai’i.

So far in my writing, I’ve tried to explore other themes in a departure from the canonical series:

First love, jealousy, misunderstanding and self-doubt (Hele On

Coming out, community, sexual assault (Na Aihue

Separation, longing, normalizing a new relationship (Moekahi

The catalyst of birth, the significance of names, the journey of parenthood (Na Leka No Na Keiki)

Realizing one’s parents aren’t invincible, that not all marriages are happy, not all deaths are grieved, not all lovers triumph (Na Hoa Mau Loa)

And this one – actually two of them.

In the first I’ve got Danny at home alone with two toddlers while Steve is away on deployment. With Steve’s death a very real possibility, he begins to discover Hawai’i’s inherent spirtuality – which is a rich pastiche which draws from traditions of Polynesia, Asia, and the West. Concepts of spirituality and the life/death divide are much more fluid in Hawai’i, and there’s a definite otherworldly presence – especially at night, which Danny will begin to encounter.

The second I mentioned earlier, but I want to look at the differences between Steve and Danny’s approach to parenting. Steve is what one would call a “natural” and Danny finds it more of a chore – he’s more fearful and pessimistic, and becomes increasingly wary of having children in a world he no longer understands and barely tolerates while Steve is a creative optimist who isn’t done creating yet. The concepts of “Family as Art/Creation” is one I want Steve to have to unravel and explain for his partner, which of course will be much more difficult when other events intervene (can’t give it all away, can I?)

In short, writing has the power to ennoble us. Our language is the language of Shakespeare and Byron and Faulkner – there’s no reason there can’t be some depth in transformative literature. It’s my aim to make sure there’s plenty more of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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After watching last week’s episode, where Steve and Catherine return to North Korea to repatriate the remains of Steve’s fallen SEAL buddy Freddie, I (and the other McDanno fanatics who haunt social media) was somewhat tickled by this exchange during the episode:

Yes, I’m deconstructing here, because that’s what hardcore fanatics do. But let’s examine:

1. Danny gives good face. You can almost see the lump in his throat. This man couldn’t be anymore concerned if it were Grace in enemy territory than Steve. Of course, if it were Grace, Danny would be on the next plane (or he might even hijack one) but if we’re going to go there we might as well point out it’s not like he hasn’t already crossed the 38th Parallel for someone he loves.

2. Danno, I’m Yours. The use of the possessive is interesting. There’s a long list of other, straighter ways to say that. How is he? How is Steve? Or even better: How are both of you? (because I clearly care about you too, Catherine – or does he? As we see in the clip from this post, Danny smiles and sticks his tongue out when Catherine’s ProBowl plans with Steve are foiled). Wrong. Instead we get declarative possession. Mine.

3. Audience is Key. Not only is Danny asking how his boy is, remember he’s asking Steve’s girlfriend friend with benefits prom date side dish bunk buddy shag mate using possessive terms. Catherine’s clearly Wonder Woman (actually she’d look amazing in the outfit, just sayin’) because if I had a man that hot who was that stingy with the “I love you’s” I’d be cursing like a–well–a sailor.

Ok, so Danno’s pining about his boy, Steve’s shvitzing about getting the actual set of bones belonging to his dead boy, and Catherine’s got a pack of gum, some Dramamine, and a hard-wired smile in spite of Danno’s claim on her boyfriend beau intended bed buddy.

So I began to wonder: What would happen if Danny and Cath got into a fight over Steve? And then I wrote this.

Whew. That took a lot out of me. I forgot the difficult thing about writing fights is you have to make the characters hate each other, and to make them hate each other, they have to be mean. And none of the Five-0 folks are really that mean. Not even Danny. And because they’re so not mean, it’s hard to find mean things for them to say to one another. Seriously, what’s Danny going to say to Catherine? “Shut up, you’re so pretty, and nice, with your hot car and cute house and amazing outfits. You really suck. Now put ’em up!”

So it had to be a sitcom style fight where there’s no real hitting, but some hair pulling and a lot of physical appearance jokes (I couldn’t even bring myself to have anybody call Catherine a bitch because I like her too much) and you kinda have to tell yourself that everybody’s going to shake hands in the end, right before Steve and Danny go and take out three years worth of sexual tension on each other across the hood of the Camaro.

Which brings me to an observation about character flaws in the Five-0 canon. Specifically where the hell are they? Danny is by far the most interesting character because he’s the most flawed and vulnerable (Steve and Grace are his kryptonite – one fires him up, the other melts him). Danny’s judgmental, cynical, critical, obnoxiously blunt, laughably stubborn – all of which blends into this sort of “Born Loser” love-ability that makes you want to buy him a beer when he’s down and pat him on the head when he’s hot and ranting.

We got ooooone tiny hint of a flaw from Steve in the Season 2 opener in which he makes reference to the fact that he’s rarely wrong, which betrays arrogance, but we haven’t gotten too much of that since. And no, complete inability to have a positive relationship with any woman other than Kono doesn’t count as a character flaw (and honorable as her intentions were, even she’s crossed him).

Let’s get some comments going. Talk to me about character flaws. These folks need some.

These are indeed most interesting times in which we live. Some millenia ago the Greek philosopher Socrates opined, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Now, of course, Socrates was speaking of self-examination as key to personal growth and development rather than examination of others, and no doubt he would jump for joy to see how the impossibly modern invention of social media has created this omnidirectional dialogue among the human race (or at least those who are connected). With such public, permanent records that are accessible by billions, we’re forced to examine the image that we present to the world, the incredibly powerful voice that for those thousands of years was the sole purview of heads of state, government, religion, etc.

This morning, a H50 fan tweeted this:

Now, honestly, this kind of thing makes me cringe, and not just because I actually like Catherine. I think she’s just as good a foil for McGarrett’s craziness as Danny is, although the chemistry doesn’t appear to be quite as strong. I also appreciate that there’s another strong female character on the show who A. Doesn’t need a man to legitimize their role and B. demonstrates that “smart” and “sexy” aren’t mutually exclusive. There’s (unfortunately) a fine line between calling a man out on his bullshit like one of his buddies would and being considered a ball-busting bitch, and both Kono and Catherine do this fabulously well. I’m all for loving some characters and disliking others, but it can be done with more Aloha (and wit) than that, for sure.

I don’t care to write much about actors because characters are more fun, and characters don’t get their feelings hurt. I didn’t care much for Lori Weston, but I think Lauren German handled the role very capably. When I saw her interview at HIFF in 2011 she struck me as willing to do whatever it took to make the role as success and it surely must have been frustrating for her when the show’s course changed direction despite her best efforts with what was written for her. The character didn’t add much to the show for me and I didn’t understand a lot of the venom some fans sent in her direction. It appears that Michelle Borth’s character isn’t the only one with chutzpah. She followed up with this tweet:

Now I may be wrong, but I think it was showrunner Peter Lenkov who actually referred to Catherine as the “heart of Five-0”, so you can’t really blame the actor for that. As Scott Caan found out, even the most innocuous criticism can land you in one hell of a shitstorm. It’s a pretty sad double standard: we pick and pick and pick, hoping the stars will say something genuine and real, and as soon as we don’t agree with them or like what they have to say, we take it personally and get offended. I personally would have been starstruck that an actor on a show I liked picked my tweet and responded to it (the tweet wasn’t directed at Michelle). Truth be told, fans do some pretty crazy, irritating shit sometimes, and you just can’t blame folks for telling you what they really think about it.

The response:

True, you’re entitled to dislike a fictional character, but to imagine you’re also entitled to tweet about it without the possibility of getting a response, be it positive or negative, is pure delusion. If you can’t handle feedback on your opinion, write it in a diary with a lock on it. What’s unfortunate is that I’m sure everybody ended up feeling badly about it afterwards.

More importantly, Michelle had other things to say: 

#winning. While most of Gay Hollywood remains in the closet (unless they’re dragged out, kicking and screaming, by Perez Hilton or TMZ) it’s nice that, aside from a few notable Far Right detractors, the call for GLBT representation in media is growing almost daily, and from a stream of progressively more influential voices. The problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is a matter of genre rather than progressivism. H50 is a police procedural, not a romance, and legitimizing McDanno would turn it into one (although it’s still fun to joke it already is just one big Boy-Meets-SEAL serial with a little police work thrown in for filler).

As if Twitter hadn’t already lit up like a pride parade float over Michelle’s admission, the narrative got even more interesting:

This is actually not surprising. Although the friendship between Steve and Danny had been explicitly written into the script from early in Season One, interviews have revealed that some of the McDanno scenes were the result of improv. And honestly, yes, it would add some crazy drama to the show – the clincher is whether it would add crazy drama that would keep existing viewers and attract new ones, and once that toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s not going back in. I would cautiously opine that it could be exploited as a gimmick if the ratings take another dive, but there actually is opportunity to break some real ground here, and it’s honestly exciting to think about the possibilities.

In the 2000 film The Wonder Boys Tobey Maguire’s character and Robert Downey Jr’s character sleep with each other, but the fact that they’re both men isn’t really an issue. That same year, Big Eden told the story of a coming-home-and-coming-out in a small Montana town peculiarly devoid of homophobia (the townsfolk are a little surprised, but not scared or disgusted). What I appreciate about both of these films is that they handle the love affairs as though the fact that they involve two men is a non-issue (which it should be) and it would be fantastic to see McDanno take that form, canonically, with the show.

I would love to see:

1. The “Casual Reveal”: Steve wakes up in the morning, showers, brushes his teeth, etc. Oh, by the way, that’s Danny still snoozing on the other side of the bed. No editorializing, no explanation, episode proceeds as normal. That would generate buzz.

2. The “Nothing To Hide”: Similar to the “Casual Reveal” but not quite as explicit. It can be made chastely clear that our boys are romantically involved (more explicit that it is now, but not by much). If we’re talking ruined dates (like hiking in the mountains, going deep sea fishing, etc.) we’ve already done that, really, just throw in a tad more physical affection and there we go.

3. The “Big Non-Surprise”: Steve and Danny figure out what their constant googly eyes and muppet faces really mean, drink too many Longboards, and get totally gay with each other (without ceremony). Later, they agonize over telling everybody who knows them about it, only to find that everybody had long assumed they were already doing it and just didn’t care. (I particularly see some cash changing hands between Chin and Kono, who, when prodded, sheepishly admit the bet wasn’t if Steve and Danny were going take the plunge, but when).

Whew. That was a lot to talk about. Share some Aloha in the comments below!

If there’s one thing the shippers don’t lack, it’s… passion. It happens about once a week: Somebody posts some self-indulgent, self-absorbed nonsense about how they’d disappointed with their ship, they’re sick of the drama related to their ship, they’re convinced the show’s writers are plotting against them and the whole world is hell bent on somehow destroying their oh-so-important vision of how the relationship between two fictional characters should be portrayed.

The McDannogasm that was “Pa’ani” is the topic of a later article for when I have more patience for adding photos and all that fun stuff. For tonight, I’ll attempt to address the latest complaint from out there in the shipping universe. The complaint is that the amount of bromance and gay subtext that is perceived to be present in the show amounts to queerbaiting, and that the characters should either just be gay or dump the camp.

First, let’s look at the use of the term “queer bait”. It’s a misuse, as much as we can really discuss “misuse” when we’re talking about a non-OED urban slang term, but queer bait is typically exactly what it sounds like. It’s someone or something that attracts gay men. Sure, Steve and Danny are queer bait because they’re attractive men. Sure, I can understand why the producers of the show want gay men as their audience (we’re a valuable share of the market to advertisers because of our higher-than-average amount of disposable income, and our willingness to spend it). However, anybody who’s done their marketing homework knows that slash shippers are mostly heterosexual women. Queer bait? Hardly. Slash bait? You betcha. There’s a reason for that, which I’ll explain after the bump.

“Pa’ani” is actually a good episode in which to discuss what attracts viewers, and what kind of viewers are valuable. At its core, television is still a business, and the success of the business is determined by how much money a show can make. Filming in Hawai’i is expensive, so shows filmed there have to draw in high enough ratings for the advertising space to command a premium. Ratings are what determine how much a network can charge for advertising. The higher the ratings in the coveted 18-49 demographic, the more the network can charge for the advertising space.

For its first two seasons, H50 averaged just under 12 million viewers per episode throughout the season. This season, the series is on track to average somewhere between 8 and 9 million. That’s a pretty big slide. While many weeks it “wins its timeslot” meaning no competing shows captured a larger share of the coveted 18-49 demo, the shows expense puts it in a position where it has to consistently outperform to remain on the air. Now the show is all but guaranteed a fourth season because it’s already been sold in syndication, which requires 88 episodes, but after that all bets are off, especially if the network receives a proposal for a cheaper show that is likely to capture the same percentage of viewers in the 18-49 demo.

Back to “queer baiting” (that’s not really queer baiting) for a moment. Some complain its pandering, some complain its cruel teasing. For example, this Monday night tweet by @HawaiiFive0CBS made it clear we were due for some bromance: “Are Danny & McGarrett going on a man date? Watch this sneak peek & don’t forget 2 tune in 4 a new #H50 TONIGHT 10/9c: http://bit.ly/Z9O90H” What’s the idea here? Buzz. Social media is one of the great new measurements are using to determine what viewers like, and what keeps them watching. It amounts to nearly free market research. With an ear to the right door, they’ve figured out that not only do folks who appreciate a little McDanno with their H50 regularly watch they show, they’re also likely to generate buzz when they see what they tuned in for. That’s a win for the network because it generates buzz, which piques the curiosity of more potential viewers (and until the series is syndicated, “converted” viewers are the prime purchasers of previous seasons and episodes on iTunes and in stores). In short, they like bromance because it engages a very vocal segment of the viewership, and gets them to send out positive feedback to their social networks. Good bromance moments tend to blow up my Twitter, and that’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Let’s take a look at another very similar tweet from the following day: Which @nfl player do you think Danno is most excited to see? Watch RIGHT NOW & chat @CBS Connect: http://bit.ly/SYU97g #H50 #NFL. Here’s more engagement. Football is an even more universal topic for social media buzz than bromance, and between Catherine and our boys there were some strong football allegiances on display during the last episode. Now my Twitter blew up with TNT during the McDanno moments, but Catherine waxing poetic about “America’s Team” and Steve and Danny sharing their own firm football religion was social media napalm. Everyone immediately felt compelled to either agree with one party or the other, and I’m sure the network just loved it. Maybe that’s “Football Baiting” because Twitter certainly got hooked.

In fact, I didn’t see any buzz about what a great procedural it was. The case itself was convoluted, dull, and somewhat confusing, but flashy guest stars like Pat Monahan and Arian Foster saved the procedural scenes from turning into dead air – they also rated some pretty consistent mentions throughout the evening on social media.

Let’s be realistic here: what we’re dealing with here is not a crusade, it’s not an epic battle to win the argument over whose perception of the show is correct.  This is a product, and the primary goal is to write and promote the show to be successful.  I think it’s a testament to our progressive times that bromance or gay subtext or slashiness or whatever we’re calling it has proven to be an ingredient for that success, and it’s worth celebrating. This is really just a bit of fun, after all, right? No? Well, it is for me.

I really enjoyed “Hookman” both in the orignal and updated fashions. Of course, the original moved much slower because the technology simply wasn’t there, but there was a more creeping sense of dread throughout the episode that made it, well, scarier. And our original McG was nowhere near as emotional on a regular basis as our cuddly hero, so it was much more unsettling to see his facade begin to appear to crack, although he keeps it together pretty well.

There were some great moments in this episode. Let’s review them, shall we?

1. Everybody gets touched

This Scene had some McDanno shippers flummoxed. What exactly is Danno saying?

Steve: What are you, Scarface?  What were you thinking? What was that?

Danny: I dunno, I guess I misinterpreted your fame plan, which, for the record, was seriously flawed.

Steve: You were worried about me. (Twinkles)

Danny: Worried? No, no, I was worried about my car.

(Bemused Chin Ho watches volley)

Steve (giddy): I’m touched.

Danny: Yeah you’re touched. You’re touched in the head.

(You have a short memory Danny. You know exactly when Steve was last touched. It was you, like three scenes ago.)

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Hook ’em, Danno.

2. Steve’s see-through pants. Seriously, they could have been cellophane. When it rained, I started cheering.

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“Eyes up here Danny. So you were saying you worry about me? That’s cute. Hop on, I’ll give you a piggyback ride back to the car.”

3. Worried!Danno and Protective!Steve throughout the episode. 

It’s hard to decide if Danny or Steve was a bigger mess. Steve for obvious contextual reasons, but Danny had this creeping sense of fear that took a nagging hold. From the frog in his throat once he realized Steve was charging the house at the shootout to his harping afterwards, to more harping at the gun store to frog-in-the-throat + worried harping during the high speed chase (it’s his characteristic coping mechanism) to his confusing bitching at Steve after the shooter was killed (“I am scared about a lot of things; losing you in a combat situation is not one of them.”), our Danno was clearly scared shitless about losing Steve the entire episode, despite his claims to the contrary. This is typical Danny – his reaction to fear is anger. 

Steve handles fear differently. He seems to worry little about himself, but spends a great deal of time making sure everybody else is taken care of. He orders protective detail on the remaining HPD officers he thinks might be on the list, he takes the lead diffusing a shootout situation where HPD and his Danno are in a stalemate, he pushes Danny to the floor of the gun shop during his first run-in with the Hookman, and most tellingly, in the final shootout he pulls Kono into a decoy move but tells Danny to stay put (ostensibly for his safety). Steve spends a lot of time protecting Danny, and Danny spends a lot of time worried (i.e. bitching) about Steve.

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Protective!Steve saves Worried!Danny’s ass yet again.

The Takeaway: What the update of “Hookman” lost (slightly) in suspense, it made up for in the character relationship development that is fast becoming one of the trademarks of the reboot that wasn’t quite present in the original series. We learned some strong lessons about both our boys characters in this episode, and it was a most enjoyable hour of entertainment.

I’m rating this one four smooches: McDanno Goldmine.

McD4

One of the great joys of writing fiction isn’t just in writing it, but in reviewing it periodically with a critical eye. I’ve managed to build a large series of McDanno related fiction in which I’ve attempted to keep the writing as “literary” as possible. A lot of fan fiction relies heavily on the use of contrived, highly fetishized tropes. I’ve done my best to avoid these and instead write our boys’ story in a more symbolic context, with observations on the nature of love as a catalyst, masculine affection, the finding and building of family, and the redemptive power of the second chance.

I’ve recently revisited the series generative work Hele On and I feel somewhat unsettled. I’d love some feedback. The work is set in Spring of 2011 just prior to the Season One finale (which ultimately never happens).

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Steve’s reaction when Danny tells him he wants to try fisting. Let’s solve the case first, boys. “Hele On” is set on Kaua’i, which Steve and Danno visit in Episode 1.10 “Palekaiko”, although the scenes were filmed on O’ahu.

 

While reading, be on the lookout for the following:

  • Use of the elements (especially water) to illustrate change.
  • Discomfort as an eye-opener and thought-provoker.
  • The use of flowers to suggest desire and affection.
  • The question of gender roles in same-sex relationships.
  • The polarity of confidence and self-doubt.
  • The significance of effective or ineffective communication.
  • Overarching themes of discovery, secrecy, and hope.

Enjoy, and feel free to comment!

Sometimes I think they should just throw in the towel and rename the show “Hawaii Five McDann-0”.

Let’s watch a preview of next week’s episode, shall we?

Couple things stick out:

Danny: “What, the, uh, what the hell is this?”

Me: Simmer down, Danno. The network has her on contract.

Catherine: “What, I can’t surprise Steve at work?”

Me: Danno clearly doesn’t like it!

Danny: “Oh you can do that, I’m talking about the jersey.”

Me: Oh sure Danny. What was going on in your head there? “Back up, she’s on to me, too gay. Talk about football!”

Catherine: “Come on, who doesn’t like America’s Team?”

Steve: “I don’t!”

Danny: “We don’t.”

Me: Heh, “We don’t.” Next it’ll be “We don’t do dairy.” or “We’re off wheat this week. Watching our diet.” Keep the plurals up, buddy. It’s kinda hot.

Catherine: “I’m gonna give you an A+ for that literary reference. But actually, I came here with a peace offering for Steve.”

Me: I love that you don’t take no shit off noBODY girl. Peace offering for Steve? For what, double-crossing him and keeping his Mother’s dirty laundry hidden safely away? Yeah, that’s worth a couple of football tickets.

Catherine: “You, and I, are going to the Pro Bowl.”

*Danny looks very pleased his boyfriend’s girlfriend’s surprise is ruined and sticks out his tongue at her*

Steve: (sheepishly) “I’m already going with Danny.”

Me: We know, Steve. You BEEN “going with Danny” for three seasons now.

Danny: “We got 50 yard line seats, best seats in the house.”

Me: Now you’re just gloating, Danno. Sometimes you’re a bigger bitch than Catherine, girl.

Danny: “I’m just gonna let that awkward moment fade out a little bit; we got a bar to go to.”

Me: Aaaand, TWIST the knife!

Steve (quickly): “For a case, we’re going to a bar for a case.”

Me: Nice save, Smooth Dog. File that gem away for the next time she catches you two hugging it out, too. It’s a winner.

Steve: “Hey why don’t we do some tailgating together, before the game?”

Catherine: “I would love that, but I don’t wanna get in the way of your Man Date with Danny.”

Steve: “It’s not a Man Date!”

Me: No girl, it’s a real date! Man Date would imply you won’t be bonking each other afterwards.

Catherine: “That’s a three-way bromance. Cute, very very cute. I like it!”

And there we have it folks. If McDanno isn’t explicitly canon, the term “bromance” is. I have my own feelings about the term bromance, but that’s for another time, and another planet.

Let’s talk possible outcomes:

1. Somebody gets guilted into pairing McRoll up for the big game and Danny sits next to somebody he dislikes (Kamekona or Doris, although Christine Lahti does not appear on the cast list)

2. Catherine takes Kono for some “girl power” pigskin love, and the two bodacious babes end up with better seats than our boys.

3. Steve and Danny’s ticket deal falls through and Steve has to beg Catherine for her extra ticket; she refuses and Steve and Danny end up watching from the couch at home, enjoying their own too-hot-for-TV halftime show in the “missing reel”.

4. Catherine actually has three tickets, and spends the game sharing a plate of nachos with Doris and Wo Fat.